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3.4 Plan for growth areas

The populations of the seven designated growth areas, on the outskirts of Melbourne are experiencing rapid population growth, encouraged by relatively affordable housing for residents.1 Including parts of Cardinia, Casey, Hume, Melton, Mitchell, Whittlesea and Wyndham local government areas, these growth areas are projected to be home to over 930,000 more people by 2036. This is roughly equivalent to adding the population of around 10 cities the size of Bendigo, and represents over 40% of projected statewide growth.2 These growing populations are often more diverse, with a higher proportion of Aboriginal Victorians and migrant communities than other parts of Victoria.

While the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily slowed population growth, many more Victorians will continue to call designated growth areas home. These extra people will require new homes, and that means building many thousands of new dwellings. Unlike in established suburbs, almost all this construction is in areas that were previously rural with little existing infrastructure and small starting populations.3

To provide residents with access to employment, services and amenities, considerable new investment is needed in many types of infrastructure, including utility connections, roads and public transport, schools, hospitals, community infrastructure and telecommunications.4

Figure 24: New growth areas grow rapidly from 2018 to 2036.
This graph shows the minimum and maximum average annual population growth rates in different parts of Melbourne and regional Victoria from 2018 to 2036, across the different population growth scenarios modelled by Infrastructure Victoria.

Figure 24 New growth areas grow rapidly from 2018 to 2036 300dpi 1
Source: Infrastructure Victoria analysis of Arup Strategy modelling outcomes, 2021.

Governments are responsible for funding most of this infrastructure, in full or in partnership with others, and delivering it is expensive. Greenfield development infrastructure is estimated to cost the Victorian and local governments tens of billions of dollars over the next two decades,5 although the exact quantum will depend on how quickly these areas are settled. As the single greatest expense, transport requirements are likely to account for over half this amount.6

On average, the Victorian Government spends about $50,000, and local councils $38,000, on infrastructure to support each new home in Melbourne’s growth areas.7 This is significantly more than the norm in established suburbs where up to 80% of new homes have been built.8

Building non-transport infrastructure for extra homes in new estates is typically around two to four times more expensive than in established areas, where existing infrastructure has the capacity to support development.9 Developer contributions in new growth areas averaging around $23,000 for each home assist, but neither level of government recovers the full cost of infrastructure provision.10 More effectively aligning infrastructure and land use planning in new growth areas would provide the Victorian Government and local councils with a more integrated and accurate view of infrastructure requirements, promote collaboration between government agencies on delivery and sequencing, support transparency, and – most important of all – help deliver better outcomes for residents and communities.

Effective alignment of land use and infrastructure planning will allow for a more integrated and accurate view of what is required to deliver better outcomes for growing communities.

Infrastructure sometimes does not meet the needs of growth area residents

While the need for infrastructure in new and developing communities is pressing, in some cases there are some types of infrastructure arriving long after they are required.11

Outer suburbs and new growth areas offer the most affordable homes to purchase, but are not necessarily affordable living because they are less connected to the rest of Melbourne and associated opportunities. These residents face more obstacles in finding jobs that suit their qualifications and can find it more difficult to access services.12 They are also more likely to be Aboriginal Victorians or from migrant communities, and the infrastructure may not meet their specific cultural and service needs.

The built form of new suburbs creates new problems for the environment and amenity, while a lack of social infrastructure can limit engagement with sport, recreation, and cultural expression.

Transport connections within growth areas, and to the rest of Melbourne, are underdeveloped, leading to congestion, high car dependence and efficient network use. Many outer suburbs do not have suitable, high capacity public transport options, with services less frequent the farther people live from the city centre, especially in the outer west and south-east.13 As many growth areas are along interstate road corridors, road congestion can also delay freight movements. Even with more Victorians working more frequently from home, transport options in growth areas remain limited.14 With few public transport options, many commuters rely on their cars, increasing congestion on underdeveloped road networks that are already under pressure. Without enough arterial roads, more people use the city’s motorway network for shorter trips, and this makes it less resilient to disruptions because motorists have few alternative routes.

Figure 25: Outer suburbs and new growth areas are projected to have lower access to jobs by public transport. This diagram shows the projected percentage of jobs accessible within 60 minutes of homes by public transport in 2036, under a lower infrastructure investment scenario using the official population distribution projection.

Figure 25 Outer suburbs and new growth areas are projected to have lower access to jobs by public transport 300dpi 1
Source: Arup, Strategy update: Problem definition modelling outcomes, report for Infrastructure Victoria, November 2020

While the Victorian Government has committed to road projects in the growth areas and corridors,15 the forecast growth in these areas means these projects are unlikely to meet the scale of demand. New growth areas offer fewer jobs than inner and middle suburbs, even as their populations grow more quickly. Many available jobs in growth areas primarily serve local needs, such as in education, health care and retail, rather than more highly paid, specialised roles.16

While these jobs are more available in other parts of Melbourne, limited transport options to, within and from growth areas make these opportunities difficult for many to access.17 Lower job access contributes to lower labour force participation, higher unemployment and the underutilisation of workers, especially as those working in outer suburbs are more likely to be overqualified for their jobs than residents elsewhere in the city.18

Figure 26: Outer suburbs and new growth areas are projected to have lower access to jobs by private vehicles. This map shows the percentage of jobs in Greater Melbourne that can be accessed within 30 minutes by private vehicles in 2036, under a lower infrastructure investment scenario using the official population distribution projection.

Figure 26 Outer suburbs and new growth areas are projected to have lower access to jobs by private vehicles 300dpi 1
Source: Arup, Strategy update: Problem definition modelling outcomes, report for Infrastructure Victoria, November 2020.

Converting land from agriculture and other uses contributes to habitat loss and biodiversity decline, as paddocks and grassland are turned from natural environments into roads, buildings and other development.19 Small lot sizes and residents’ preferences for large homes means a lot of residential land in growth areas are covered by detached houses, driveways and other constructed surfaces – particularly in Melbourne’s north and west.20 These leave little space for vegetation, including canopy trees, on private property and may limit opportunities for future land use change.21 Growth areas are particularly vulnerable to heat, but have fewer trees to provide shade and support evaporative cooling.22 More vegetation on public and private land would help reduce water run off, air pollution and ultraviolet radiation,23 and encourage

biodiversity, active transport and neighbourhood amenity. Like all Victorians, residents of growth areas also have a right to expect social infrastructure that meets their health, education, sport and recreation needs, but many rapidly growing areas lack sufficient social infrastructure to meet demand. This will require new infrastructure and the better integration of social infrastructure into the planning of new suburbs. In some cases, only minor changes would be required to allow existing facilities to provide multiple services, or to deliver infrastructure in a way that supports joint use. For example, there is potential to leverage the Victorian Government’s delivery of many new schools in growth areas, including the shared community use of competition-sized sports courts provided in all new schools.

Better planning can help provide the right infrastructure, at the right time

A unique opportunity exists to build modern and better integrated infrastructure that can meet the needs of rapidly growing and diverse communities in growth areas, but planning infrastructure for new suburbs on the urban fringe is complex. The Victorian Government, local governments, landowners, private developers, utility companies, service providers and other stakeholders must collaborate to promptly deliver the infrastructure communities need.24 To guide the process, the Victorian Planning Authority (VPA) coordinates the development of Precinct Structure Plans (PSPs) for new growth area suburbs. Each PSP covers an area expecting up to 30,000 residents and as many as 10,000 jobs, and considers infrastructure needs including roads, schools, shops, parks, transport and services.25 In so doing, the PSP process aims to encourage more integrated decisions about land use patterns, transport, the environment and other investments.26 The PSP process encourages forward planning, but it is not flawless. While the VPA can encourage cooperation, no one entity is responsible for providing leadership or is accountable for the delivery of timely infrastructure and services.27 Individual government agencies can choose the extent to which they include their own infrastructure and service planning in PSPs. Utility providers undertake their infrastructure planning on fixed, three to five-year time horizons, and their budgets are not coordinated with the PSP process. This means the Victorian Government can find it difficult to deliver infrastructure and services in a timely, coordinated sequence.28  Future governance arrangements could provide greater clarity on stakeholder responsibilities and support monitoring that identifies gaps and systemic issues. Clearer policy direction would also support government agencies, councils, the private sector and local communities to make complementary investments.

Overall, a more collaborative approach would better support people, businesses, utility companies and service providers in growth areas, helping to drive productivity, enhance social benefits and improve environmental outcomes.

Transport is the most expensive element of infrastructure provision in new growth areas. No single intervention will address all transport challenges in these areas, but careful investment can better connect residents in new outer suburbs with jobs, education and services. New road links and upgrades can help keep traffic moving and provide a foundation for high quality bus, cycling and walking networks.29 Buses can be rapidly deployed to provide flexible, inexpensive services to growing populations, helping prevent ‘locked in’ car travel patterns, and complementing the other public transport modes in the long term.30 Rail network upgrades can be prioritised in areas where population growth is greatest, road networks are underdeveloped and access to existing train services is difficult – as is the case in Melbourne’s outer north and south-east.31

Planning and delivering social infrastructure within walking distance of the Principal Public Transport Network would also help achieve the Plan Melbourne goal of ’20-minute neighbourhoods’ in which people are able to meet most of their daily needs within a short walk from home.

Feasibility studies and business cases should continue to assess the economic, social and environmental impact of different options and an effective and efficient sequencing of investment. Transport modes, routes and infrastructure should continue to evolve with the communities they support. Reserving land for future transport corridors can also save time, complexity and money in the long-term, and support the development of more sustainable new communities.32

Recommendations to improve planning for growth areas

Infrastructure Victoria makes the following recommendations to improve planning for growth areas. These build on recommendations relevant elsewhere in this strategy, and would be most effective if complemented by a more integrated approach to land use and infrastructure (see section 2.1)

Recommendation 72: Prioritise and oversee infrastructure delivery in growing communities

In the next year, empower a government body to monitor infrastructure delivery in Victoria’s new growth areas and priority urban renewal precincts, and proactively advise on delivery sequencing and funding. In the next five years, develop program business cases for growth areas and precincts that consider timing, sequencing and funding of infrastructure.

Victoria is accommodating population growth in new growth areas, and in urban renewal precincts such as Fishermans Bend and Arden. These different types of residential areas face particular infrastructure opportunities and challenges in accommodating growing populations. Growth areas need new infrastructure to support rapid creation of communities, while urban renewal precincts need infrastructure for residential uses in areas that once supported large-scale industry.

Some infrastructure for new and developing communities is being delivered after communities require it.33 Excluding transport, infrastructure capital costs in greenfield areas can be two to four times higher than in established areas, where existing infrastructure has the capacity to support growth.34 These areas also have diverse populations, and may need particular social infrastructure, such as for Aboriginal community-controlled organisations. Service planning is important to identify appropriate infrastructure responses in different areas (see section 3.3).

Plan Melbourne requires sequencing of growth areas – staging land releases to better link with infrastructure delivery.35 This can help minimise infrastructure costs. But no clearly identified agency is responsible for providing ongoing leadership, responsibility and accountability for timely, coordinated and sequenced delivery of infrastructure and services.36

The Victorian Government should empower an appropriate entity to monitor infrastructure delivery37 in greenfield growth areas and priority urban renewal precincts in the next year.38 The entity would initially monitor and publicly39 report to the Victorian Government on infrastructure delivery in precinct plans. This role can then be extended to identifying sequencing of investment and appropriate funding amounts. Improving the infrastructure contributions system to cover gaps and be more consistent and efficient will assist in providing necessary funding and actually delivering infrastructure when it is required by growing communities (see recommendation 34). The selected entity should advise on whether sequencing land release might result in better outcomes and reduce infrastructure pressures. This leadership can help manage large new growth fronts across Melbourne and regional Victoria40 by better prioritising infrastructure, based on the Victorian Government’s funding capacity.

Lessons can be drawn from approaches to urban renewal and major infrastructure projects, such as the New South Wales Place-based Infrastructure Compacts (see breakout box), Fishermans Bend and Arden. Other jurisdictions use program business cases that manage change with a strategic vision and a roadmap for delivery. Program business cases combine related projects and activities, including across different sectors, that achieve a desired outcome together and help articulate the interdependency and coordination of investment decisions.41

A clearly identified and empowered body can prioritise infrastructure that best meets current and future demand. This supports people, employment and industries in their location choices, which delivers higher productivity, and better social and environmental outcomes. By more clearly identifying priority places for investment, and the timing of infrastructure provision, the private sector, local government and the community can make complementary investments. The infrastructure contributions made by developers can also be used more effectively to meet the needs of growing communities. An oversight entity can also help to reduce duplication of effort (and subsequent cost) across government by helping create shared priorities.

Case study. Learning from the New South Wales Place-based Infrastructure Compacts

New South Wales is piloting a new collaborative approach to place-based infrastructure planning and provision. Overseen by the Greater Sydney Commission, Place-based Infrastructure Compacts (PICs) bring together the many types of infrastructure needed to achieve better place-based outcomes. The pilot focuses on the Greater Parramatta and Olympic Precinct, one of the fastest-growing areas in Greater Sydney.42

This PIC set out different scenarios for the precinct’s future, from a ‘business as usual’ scenario with minimal change, to a ‘visionary’ scenario where the precinct experiences a step change and becomes part of a ’30-minute city’. Crucially, short, medium and long-term projections of population, homes and jobs were completed for each scenario. The Commission worked collaboratively with relevant agencies to identify all the necessary services and infrastructure needed to support each scenario. This included documenting the most cost-effective timing and sequencing of growth, and the responsible agencies, costs and potential funding sources for the supporting infrastructure.

Infrastructure types included transport, justice, housing, education, cultural infrastructure and green infrastructure. The PIC provides a blueprint to guide development of the precinct, transparently setting out the costs associated with achieving different outcomes. It uses collaboration and rigorous evaluation to identify places where growth can be accommodated cost-effectively and provides greater certainty and better coordination. Building on the findings of the pilot, a draft Strategic Business Case was prepared, proposing 10-year service and infrastructure priorities to respond to current, emerging and future needs within budgetary limits. Victoria can learn from the ideas in the PICs and adapt them for use here. Service planning needs to be advanced to inform infrastructure requirements, and how growth occurs needs to be continuously monitored to inform service and infrastructure planning. Critically, they require a credible body who can facilitate collaboration across the many different stakeholders in a place.

Recommendation 73: Fund libraries and aquatic centres in growth areas

In the next five years, increase funding to support local governments to plan and deliver libraries and aquatic recreation centres in Melbourne’s seven growth area municipalities.

Aquatic recreation centres and libraries operate every day, providing many different health and education services for people of all ages. Libraries help build literate, productive and engaged communities, earning $4.30 in economic and social benefits for every dollar invested.43 Aquatic centres improve physical and mental health and wellbeing, and help build strong social networks.44 Each swimming pool visit generates $26 in health benefits, collectively totalling $1.82 billion each year in Victoria.45

Victorians visit libraries more than 30 million times each year,46 public pools attract more than 70 million visitors,47 and aquatic centres can exceed 1 million yearly visits.48 Visitors to these facilities also often spend money at nearby local businesses, such as retailers and cafes, supporting local jobs. Evidence shows growth areas have fewer libraries and aquatic centres than the rest of Melbourne and this will likely worsen over time as populations increase.49 The challenge is demonstrated by the rapid growth in families with young children. Growth area councils contain 35% of all of Melbourne’s 0 – 4 year old children, and by 2036 this will increase to 40%.50 As these children grow up, existing libraries and aquatic centres will be unable to provide them the same access as their peers elsewhere. Libraries and aquatic centres have large upfront capital costs. New libraries can cost from $20 million to $30 million and new aquatic centres $50 million to $70 million.51

Historically, the Victorian Government provided substantial funding for these facilities.52 The Victorian and Australian governments sometimes provide sporadic funding for regional aquatic centres.53 More recently, metropolitan local governments typically fund the majority of capital costs for new aquatic centres and libraries, while the Victorian Government only contributes small amounts. Current funding does not adequately account for the high need to provide new regional-scale infrastructure in growth areas,54 which cannot be funded by development contributions.55 Growth area councils need to prioritise limited funding to provide infrastructure across multiple rapidly growing communities and upgrade older infrastructure in their often disadvantaged established suburbs.56

Figure 27 shows that growth areas have fewer libraries per person than other areas. Figure 28 shows that many residents in new growth areas will not have access to local library services.

Casey, Cardinia, Hume, Melton, Wyndham, and Whittlesea will likely each need a new library in the next five years, and planning for a new library for Mitchell’s growth areas should start now. A new aquatic centre is likely to be required in each of Casey, Melton, Whittlesea and Wyndham in the next five years, and planning should start immediately for timely delivery of new aquatic centres in each of Cardinia, Hume, and Mitchell. The quality of existing aquatic centres varies across these municipalities, with some being older seasonal outdoor pools. For example, in the Shire of Mitchell, planning for new facilities will need to address the projected rapid growth expected in the south that will be disconnected from the Shire’s existing older infrastructure located in the rural townships to the north. Shared planning with adjoining councils and the Victorian Government can help ensure new facilities do not affect the viability and sustainability of neighbouring ones.57

Each municipality should receive up to $200,000 for aquatic centre planning and $100,000 for library planning. The Victorian Government should fund up to one-third of the cost of new facilities, capped at $20 million for aquatic centres and $10 million for libraries, with councils to provide funding for the remaining capital costs and operational expenses. Flexible funding could support staged approaches to delivery, where preferred by councils.58 This investment supports growth area councils to address provision, service and access gaps for this essential infrastructure. The return on investment can be even higher when facilities are integrated with other services. More transparent sector infrastructure plans (see recommendation 32) could allow the Victorian and local governments to undertake joint service planning to deliver integrated facilities.

Figure 27: Growth areas have fewer libraries per person.
This figure shows there are generally fewer libraries per person in new growth areas than in established areas. This disparity will become more pronounced as the population in growth areas increases.

Figure 27 Growth areas have fewer libraries per person 300dpi 2

Figure 28: Access gaps for libraries in new growth areas.
The map shows the locations of existing libraries, and identifies planned new growth areas. It shows that people in many new residential areas will not have local access to an existing library.

Figure 28 Access gaps for libraries in new growth areas 300dpi 2

Recommendation 74: Extend rail services in Melbourne’s western and northern growth areas

In the next two years, develop business cases to extend electrified metropolitan train services from Sunshine to Rockbank, from Craigieburn to Beveridge, and on the Wyndham Vale corridor, to be delivered by 2031. Deliver extra services to south-east Melbourne by running Rockbank services to Pakenham via the Melbourne Metro Tunnel. Consider adding extra stations on the Wyndham Vale and Melton corridors, and secure remaining land required for stations and stabling.

New growth areas in Melbourne’s west and north are projected to grow rapidly and collectively accommodate hundreds of thousands of new people by the mid-2030s.59 They have underdeveloped road and public transport networks. Public transport options are few,60 often infrequent, and increasingly overcrowded. An absence of good transport choices forces commuters to rely on driving cars using sparse road networks. This causes congestion, greenhouse gas emissions,61 and compromises access to jobs, education, services and social connections. Workers using public transport in Melbourne’s new growth areas and outer suburbs are much less likely to be able to access jobs within reasonable travel times than counterparts in inner and middle suburbs.62 Limited transport access to good jobs may force people into lower paid, lower skilled work.63

Infrastructure Victoria has identified the possibility that Melbourne’s new growth areas could grow much faster than standard projections suggest. Our scenario modelling reveals that new technologies and behaviours, such as electric and automated vehicles, or increases in working from home, could stimulate faster population growth in Melbourne’s outer suburbs and new growth areas.64 This is because lower cost travel, or less need to travel, can make living further from central Melbourne more attractive. The Victorian Government is also fast-tracking more precinct structure plans in new growth areas, potentially stimulating faster settlement there.

Many people use regional train services in these new growth areas, as it is their closest service. This adds more suburban passengers to regional trains, resulting in increasing overcrowding and unreliability, especially on the Geelong, Ballarat, and northern regional line toward Seymour. Ballarat and Seymour V/Line services are forecast to be over capacity by the end of this decade. The Victorian Government is developing a Western Rail Plan, including options for the Melton and Wyndham Vale lines,65 has indicated the Suburban Rail Loop includes a future western section, and has committed to upgrading the Geelong line. Upgrading these regional lines to allow electrified metropolitan trains can expand their capacity.

Our project modelling and strategic assessment showed that extending suburban services along regional rail lines makes some areas more attractive. We also found staging these extensions can help to encourage a more sequenced settlement pattern and can expand train service capacity sequentially as it is required.

Infrastructure Victoria’s strategic assessment indicates there is a compelling case to introduce electrified suburban services along the western corridor as far as Rockbank, or alternatively to a new station at the proposed Mt Atkinson activity centre. Assuming higher capacity regional trains continue to service Melton, terminating a new electrified service at Mt Atkinson encourages more gradual westward housing growth, compared with complete electrification to Melton. The project should include better bus connections to nearby areas, such as Rockbank North and Plumpton.

Services on this newly electrified line can operate a continuous service to Pakenham, using the Melbourne Metro Tunnel. This extension of the electrified rail service primarily meets demand from population growth in the western and south-eastern growth areas. Our modelling indicates it has the extra benefit of improving the attractiveness of established suburbs along the corridor, such as in Deer Park, from Noble Park to Dandenong, and from Narre Warren to Berwick. These places can be priority locations for denser housing (see recommendation 35). The extension of electrified trains to the west also means V/Line trains no longer need stop at many of these stations, producing more reliable regional services to Ballarat. Our modelling suggests that strong underlying population growth may require later electrification of the western line to Melton in the 2040s.

Our modelling also shows that Seymour line regional services and Craigieburn metropolitan services will become overcrowded towards the end of this decade, driven by population growth in Melbourne’s northern growth corridor. Our strategic assessment found that V/line services will be able to meet demand at Wallan for many years, but peak services then become prone to overcrowding. Instead, the Victorian Government should extend electrified metropolitan train services to Beveridge, and determine whether there is a further need to extend to Wallan in the future. This project is also contingent on the reconfiguration of the City Loop (recommendation 60). The project should include better bus connections to nearby areas, such as Wollert and Merrifield.

This would result in better integrated land use transport outcomes, particularly at the future Lockerbie Metropolitan Activity Centre. With delivery of the Beveridge extension, our modelling shows that more modest capacity improvements to V/Line services, such as extra carriages, could continue to meet demand at Wallan until the 2050s. This project could also catalyse more intense residential development along the Upfield corridor in Moreland, potentially in preference to fast tracking development in the northern growth corridor. A decision to electrify the rail line beyond Craigieburn coincides with a decision on reconfiguring the City Loop (see recommendation 60). Our modelling suggests doing these projects together improves outcomes for both. In finalising the Western Rail Plan and the western section of the Suburban Rail Loop, the Victorian Government should include electrification of the Wyndham Vale rail line, noting the potential use of the Melbourne Metro Two project for Geelong trains (see recommendation 61). Any plan should include new stations on the newly electrified line.66

Within two years, the Victorian Government should complete detailed feasibility studies and business cases to determine the best approach to provide more train service capacity in Melbourne’s northern and western growth areas. They should include options to electrify the lines in stages, consideration of regional service impacts, and include better bus connections, active transport improvements, and continuous tree canopy cover. The Victorian Government should then secure the necessary land, including for stations and stabling.

Figure 29: Growth area rail extensions — Potential concept.
Specific upgrades and benefits related to growth area rail extensions.

Figure 29 New FA 1 300dpi 1

Recommendation 75: Link outer suburbs to rail with ‘next generation’ buses

In the next year, introduce ‘next generation’ bus services towards Clyde, Mornington Peninsula, Wollert and Armstrong Creek. In the next five years, complete feasibility studies to plan the ultimate development of public transport services on these corridors and secure remaining land required.

Melbourne and Geelong’s outer suburban areas have underdeveloped transport networks. Public transport options are few,67 and are often infrequent, and may be distant from people’s homes. Limited transport choices forces commuters to rely on cars, causing more congestion, and compromising access to jobs, education, services and social connections. Limited access to good jobs may result in people settling for lower paid, lower skill work.68

Public transport demand is projected to soar in outer-suburban areas as their populations grow. Driving and parking at train stations is already challenging. Our modelling suggests that public transport use in Victoria will increase 65% by 2036.69 Community feedback calls for rail electrification and extensions.70,71 While this may be a long-term solution as rail can take some time to be built, proper connections need to be provided much sooner. The Victorian Government can connect these areas to the rail network using high quality ‘next generation’ bus services (see recommendation 57), as part of network expansion and reform as part of Victoria’s Bus Plan. These buses could provide a similar type of service and features as a rail service. For instance, it could have fewer but high quality stops, similar to a stations, and facilities to interchange with other modes, including cycling, other buses and potentially private vehicles.

For instance, the Victorian Government has improved bus services to Mornington Peninsula.72 A preliminary business case considered different rail and bus options for more extensive public transport improvements between Frankston and Baxter.73 The Victorian Government allocated funds to undertake network reform in the Mornington Peninsula. This network reform should consider the role of ‘next generation’ bus services.

Our modelling of selected rail extensions to other outer suburban growth areas found they can encourage more people to move further out. An extension of the Frankston line could create extra pressure for new housing developments in environmentally sensitive and agriculturally important places on the Mornington Peninsula.

Instead of progressing a rail extension to Baxter, the Victorian Government should investigate rolling out ‘next generation’ bus services around Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula in the next year. The Frankston Station Precinct is a designated multi-modal transit interchange.74 This should be the hub for better bus connections to the Frankston metropolitan activity centre, railway station, Chisolm TAFE and Frankston Hospital. As the station precinct develops, it will require an inter-modal terminal upgrade and more bus services to help manage traffic flow and congestion. This would build upon the Victorian Government’s funded improved bus services to the Mornington Peninsula.

The Victorian Government is currently investigating the feasibility of a Clyde rail extension and planning for the Armstrong Creek Transit Corridor. A Clyde rail extension may be a future solution for rising public transport demand in south-east Melbourne. In the short term, the Victorian Government should use ‘next generation’ buses to connect the rapidly developing area to existing rail services (see recommendation 57). It should take a similar approach in Armstrong Creek, which is expected to accommodate the bulk of Geelong’s immediate growth.75 Stakeholders also emphasise this need.76,77

Within five years, the Victorian should also complete a detailed feasibility study to determine the best approach to provide public transport services on the Wollert to Lalor public transport corridor, including the consideration of next generation bus services. The Victorian Government should protect remaining land parcels to secure these corridors, including the remaining 5% of land at Wollert.78 The Wollert feasibility study should be coordinated with the Melbourne Metro Two business case (see recommendation 61), and consider the option to also connect Wollert to Craigieburn station with buses, using existing roads to take advantage of the proposed City Loop reconfiguration (see recommendation 65).

While rail may be a future solution for these corridors, our modelling shows that far more people would use extended metropolitan rail services towards Melton or Wallan. These services would also have network-wide flow-on benefits, including for regional train services which share the corridor with metropolitan services. This suggests the extensions towards Melton or Wallan are higher priority (see recommendation 74). However, these communities need connections to rail sooner. The Victorian Government should connect these areas to the rail network using high quality ‘next generation’ bus services (see recommendation 57).

Recommendation 76: Expand and upgrade Melbourne’s outer suburban road and bus networks

In the next 15 years, deliver a program of upgrades to Melbourne’s arterial road, freeway and bus networks beyond what is currently funded, focusing on congested roads and corridors in outer metropolitan and growth suburbs council areas.

Melbourne’s arterial road network forms the major connections to move people and goods between the city’s major regions, activity centres, freight terminals, tourist areas and population centres. Arterial roads are high capacity two-way roads that are primarily designed for higher vehicle speeds and volumes, with intersections to regulate traffic flow. Arterial roads help funnel traffic to motorways and are also movement corridors for other transport modes, including freight, buses, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Melbourne’s outer suburbs include the four fastest growing councils of Wyndham, Casey, Melton and Whittlesea.79 More people living in these places will strain an already congested, under developed road network. The sparse road network is causing congestion and is less resilient to disruptions, making travel times more variable. Outer suburbs already have fewer jobs, with higher rates of unemployment and more workers in jobs for which they are overqualified. Some investment in better transport connections is required.80

Existing interstate and intrastate road corridors, particularly the Western, Calder and Hume highways, pass through rapidly growing communities on the city’s outskirts. These are a mix of freeways and highways, with some sections having busy intersections, driveway access and lower speed limits, reflecting previous highway standards when these roads served rural settings. To effectively serve regional Victoria and interstate travel, and meet increasing travel demands, these road corridors need to be progressively upgraded.

The Victorian Government is delivering road upgrades in the northern, south- eastern and western growth corridors.81 In the past five years, the Victorian Government has invested $28 billion in building and improving roads in Melbourne, including funding for growth area roads. However, arterial roads will become increasingly congested as the population grows, requiring further investment after the current program is completed. New road links and upgrades in the outer areas of Melbourne where the network is underdeveloped will help keep traffic moving, improve safety and provide a foundation for a high quality network for buses, cycling and walking.82 There are also opportunities to improve connections to train stations and activity centres with more effective bus routes and active transport connections. It is estimated 29% of public transport users achieve 30 minutes of daily physical activity solely by walking to and from public transport.83 Bus networks operating on main roads could also save outer suburban residents up to 15 minutes travel time84 (see recommendation 57).

Road upgrades could include the construction of safety improvements, new links, extra traffic lanes, widening and upgrades of bridges and structures, intersection upgrades, bus lanes and priority measures, better walking and cycling paths and technology improvements.85 These improvements would also help provide better access to industrial and freight precincts in outer suburban areas, particularly along major freight routes and in areas where public transport does not work well, providing residents better access to jobs, services, recreation, and cultural and social opportunities.

Recommendation 77: Target 30% tree canopy coverage in new growth areas

Over the next 30 years, achieve 30% tree canopy coverage in new growth areas by mandating coverage during precinct development, funding relevant Victorian Government agencies and local government to plant, replace and maintain canopy trees, and work with utility providers to remove barriers to tree planting.

Tree canopies and vegetation help dissipate heat trapped in urban environments, provide shade, support evaporative cooling,86 and reduce water run-off,87 air pollution88 and ultraviolet radiation.89 Mature trees encourage walking and cycling,90 enhance safety perceptions, and support biodiversity.91

Melbourne’s established suburbs’ parks and gardens create a tree and vegetation network, helping cool them and enhancing their amenity. But new designated growth area suburbs have less room for trees. They are increasingly dominated by very small lots.92 With Australia building some of the world’s largest houses,93 and denser housing meaning more driveways and crossovers, land for canopy trees in new suburbs has dramatically reduced.94 Some utility and road safety standards may limit tree planting. Trees may pose a safety risk, including contact with overhead powerlines causing fires, blackouts or power surges.95 Underground electricity, telecommunications, gas, water, drainage and sewers require tree root clearances to prevent damaging pipes and conduits.96

The socio-economic97 and environmental characteristics of Melbourne’s growth areas contribute to heat vulnerability, especially on former grasslands in the city’s north and west.98 With little natural vegetation cover, enormous land use changes have significant environmental and social effects, requiring more trees than previously existed. Protecting existing vegetation, planting new trees,99 and better tree maintenance helps make them safer and more sustainable.

Currently, land developers must ‘offset’ native vegetation removal during urban expansion.100 Although helping prevent a net loss of native vegetation,101 the replacement vegetation is typically far from newly built communities.102 And Victoria is yet to deliver the Grassy Eucalypt Woodland Reserve north of Melbourne to offset native vegetation loss within the extended urban growth boundary.103

The Victorian Government should mandate that new growth area precincts achieve a minimum 30% tree canopy cover by 2050, as proposed in new draft guidelines for greenfield precinct structure plans and forthcoming Land Use Framework Plans.104 It should include using permit requirements and developer contributions. Public land should accommodate a maximum of 70% of that required canopy cover.105 Existing trees can count towards a minimum of 30% canopy cover on private land, also preserving biodiversity.106

The Victorian Government should develop clear compliance guidelines for planning approvals and Precinct Structure Plans and undertake monitoring and enforcement.107 Guidelines could require planting appropriately mature trees, consider species diversity, support new trees’ maintenance on private land for at least two years, watering trees on public land (see recommendation 14), and accommodating underground utilities.

For the public land tree canopy contribution, the Victorian Government should deploy targeted funding for planting, maintenance, and replacement. This can fund local governments to maintain canopy trees on local and connector streets, boulevards and parks after developer maintenance periods have ended. It can also fund agencies to manage trees on public land. For example, funding could support Parks Victoria to manage three new growth area parks in Casey, Melton and Wyndham, if these are designated as priorities, and for tree planting and maintenance on roads managed by VicRoads and the Department of Transport. The Victorian Government should also work with utility providers to remove unnecessary barriers to tree planting. Mechanisms to use open space contributions and direct funding can also be used to expand tree canopy in already established parts of new growth areas (see recommendation 37).

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